Balancing the Grind with Damian Francis, Head of Content & Editorial at Mumbrella

Damian Francis is the Head of Content & Editorial at Mumbrella, an Australian marketing and media industry news website.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m a journalist with about 17 years of experience under my belt across print, digital and events. I’ve covered a whole range of areas including real estate, technology, sport, automotive, fashion and now I’m focused on B2B in the media and marketing industry.

My current role is as head of content at Mumbrella, Australia’s leading media and marketing title. I lead a department of expert content creators and journalists who work across the Mumbrella website, event content and other digital content like the Mumbrellacast podcast and our subscription product, Mumbrella Pro.

The role doesn’t see me create content as much as I used to but instead I get to work with a very talented team on Mumbrella’s content output. 

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

It can be quite varied, but generally I’m up just after 6am and on the laptop with ABC News in the background catching up on emails and planning the day ahead soon after.

I take my kids to school and daycare just after 8am and am back at the desk just before 9am. The morning goes very quickly as the editorial team marches towards a deadline of around 11am for the daily Mumbrella newsletter.

We have a news meeting after we send the newsletter out then I switch my focus to our events or the Mumbrellacast if it’s a Thursday. The afternoon is also when I will generally have meetings with industry contacts or Mumbrella team members from sales, marketing, events or our parent company Diversified Communications.

By 5pm I’m usually done and logged off. My wife picks up the kids in the afternoon and I think it’s extremely important to give them undivided attention in the evening until they go to bed around 8pm.

If there is some work to catch up on I may spend another hour or so at the desk before hopping into bed relatively early but that’s certainly not an every night situation. I’m unconscious by 10:30pm. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Like everyone else it has had to over the past year. Previously Mumbrella was always great with flexibility. With a young family it was a large part of the reason why, almost four years on, I’m still happily employed by the company.

The founders, Tim Burrowes and Martin Lane, set up a workplace that was well ahead of its time in flexible working and employee trust. That last part being the most important when it comes to making flexibility work for a business. But during the last year that flexibility has become necessary on a practical level.

With the kids at school or daycare most days, I don’t need as much flexibility as I used to but it’s still nice to be able to drop them off or pick them up occasionally. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think it’s an interesting theory. I’m not sure true balance is achievable. I would argue that the word ‘balance’ tricks people into thinking it has to be equal or you’re failing. Perhaps that is the wrong way of looking at it.

Depending on how much you like your job, how engaged you are with it, ‘balance’ will mean different things to different people. I am very engaged with the media and marketing industry.

It’s genuinely one of my passions, so working in it and reading up on it is not something that is a burden. It can be stressful and complicated at times, but it’s still fascinating to me. So admittedly, most of the week I spend thinking about work related items. And part of the weekend I will be as well.

But that’s not because the balance is wrong, it’s just what I enjoy and I make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the other people that need my attention. As I mentioned before, when I’m with the kids, I try to give them undivided attention. That’s when the media and marketing industry takes a back seat and Hey Duggee, Lego or reading books takes priority. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Yes. I bet most people have. The biggest has been my eating and fitness. I eat less junk now. I also run regularly. Generally 2-3 times each week, anywhere from 5km to 12km each session.

Prior to August last year I barely did any physical activity, but part of the benefit of working from home has meant that I had time to develop a running habit and now I really enjoy getting out and stretching the legs.

I’m not particularly fast but that’s not the point. It’s clearing the mind, achieving something and improving my health.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m a journalist, of course I do! I’m currently reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. It’s fascinating. But long. It will take me a long time to get through. I listen to a few podcasts regularly. The Vergecast and of course the Mumbrellacast. You always have to be critical of your own work. My favourite podcast series have been The Last Voyage of the Pong Su by Richard Baker (a fantastic journalist and good guy) and Jonathan Swan’s How it Happened: Trump’s Last Stand podcast on Axios. I love Formula 1 as well and Beyond the Grid by Tom Clarkson, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many years ago, is great. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Outside of the standard stuff, I’m an audiophile. I have a Musical Fidelity X-Can headphone amp and a pair of Sennheiser HD650s and HD569s on my desk at home that I swear by – depends whether I want open or closed headphones on the day. And I use Sony XM3 Bluetooth IEMs when I’m on the go. But away from audio, nothing particularly interesting or that I can’t live without that would be different to anyone else. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Good question. There’s a lot of people in the industry I would like to hear from on work/life balance but I wouldn’t single them out. Someone global who I haven’t met? Maybe Nilay Patel. Interesting character and prolific tech journalist. He would have a very interesting day, particularly these days in New York covering technology and the pandemic. Mercedes AMG F1 team boss Toto Wolff would also have a fascinating day. Can you lock that in? 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think balance is extremely important, but I also think the definition of balance is equally important. You have to find what is right for you. Not what someone tells you is right but what you know is right from trial and error. Define it yourself and practice it. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.